Pineapples Against Poverty in Rwanda
Poverty plagues many residents in the East African country of Rwanda. As a result of the deadly 1994 genocide, many female-led households are struggling. To provide for their families, these women are using their small parcels of land for agricultural cultivation. However, it was not until a group of residents in the district of Kirehe founded the Tuzamurane Cooperative in Eastern Rwanda that things changed. Through these efforts, profitable gain could now occur. Tuzamurane has worked to boost incomes by cultivating pineapples, a practice that has supplemented the community and helped combat poverty. By using pineapples against poverty in Rwanda, there is potential for improved quality of life for thousands.

What is the Tuzamurane Cooperative?

Established more than 10 years ago, the Tuzamurane Cooperative emerged to educate women on horticulture and financial literacy. Workers identified pineapples, a locally grown and climate-suitable fruit, as an ideal agricultural crop for local cooperative members to cultivate.

After some members visited a Belgian export convention, inspiration struck to collect community pineapple harvests and market them for both local and foreign sale. After this collection process, the initiative sells these fresh pineapples to locals and exports the dried fruits. Unfortunately, however, local markets pay very little just 6 cents for a single pineapple.

Community Success and Support

Oxfam, an Irish organization focused on mobilizing people against poverty, joined this cooperative’s efforts in 2015 and helped turn its pineapple production into profit. With Oxfam, Tuzamurane could attain proper facilities like processing equipment, a more thorough supplier base and adequate organic certification. Cooperative members now have access to a broader market with a higher profit margin, which can directly fight poverty in Rwanda.

Tuzamurane, meaning “lift up one another,” is a fitting name for the organization’s mission. For instance, the educational opportunities and market accessibility Tuzamurane provides its members are profound on their own. Yet, its support goes beyond these areas. If a co-op member needs monetary assistance to make ends meet, Tuzamurane readily provides financing. Members pay for this financing interest-free by supplying an equivalent amount of produce. Furthermore, Tuzamurane covers the cost of employees’ health insurance. In these ways, the cooperative protects the social well-being of its members and their families.

The positive impacts of Tuzamurane Cooperative within the community and region are profound. The pineapple farming income has provided members, particularly women, with funds to pay for their children’s schooling and household expenses. They can also invest in their futures by purchasing livestock and more land for cultivation. Additionally, they can hire more labor to help during busy times. Notably, members of the cooperative are no longer part of the lowest income groups. Tuzamurane has made incredible progress in using pineapples against poverty in Rwanda.

Social and Economic Impact

With Oxfam’s support, Tuzamurane finds great success in providing for Kirehe and Rwanda’s greater community. While pineapples may seem like a simple crop, their ability to grow on small land plots makes them easier for women to manage. In this way, the cooperative’s support empowers male and female heads of households alike. Facilitating their escape from poverty and the ability to adequately provide for their families.

With juicy pineapples in tow, the Tuzamurane Cooperative has addressed several needs of those facing poverty in Rwanda. By educating locals on introductory horticulture, providing essential equipment and offering more business opportunities, more than 300 people and their families have escaped dire poverty in Rwanda. With its lucrative business model, this co-op will undoubtedly continue to inspire thousands throughout the region to use pineapples against poverty in Rwanda.

– Eliza Cochran
Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Agriculture in RwandaAgriculture is a key sector of the Rwandan economy and has been growing in the post-genocide reconstruction era. Over 50 percent of the total surface of the country, approximately 1.4 million hectares, is arable land.

Traditionally though, Rwanda has focused on subsistence agriculture. It is one of the Vision 2020 goals for the sector to adapt and grow, moving from a focus on subsistence to a focus on commercial production. This industry growth will also increase household incomes and reduce poverty by up to 50 percent in the next two decades.


Barriers to Growth

For the agricultural sector to grow to its full potential, it must be sustainable. However, there are currently many barriers to sustainable agriculture in Rwanda. These include soil erosion, population pressure and water pollution.

Crops such as cassava are grown all across Rwanda but are more likely to lead to soil erosion. This is exacerbated by frequent field turnover, meaning fields are not left fallow to replenish their nutrients in favor of using them immediately. This yields immediate crops but is not sustainable.

The land has also been degraded by population pressures in both rural and urban areas. More farmers are vying for arable land than the small country of Rwanda can handle. In addition, the fertilizers that some farmers use to protect and extend their crop yields are polluting the country’s water.


Sustainable Solutions

There are many solutions and initiatives that are promoting sustainable agriculture in Rwanda. Sustainable land use management is a key pillar of the Vision 2020 goals. In the Umutara region, a One Cow per Family program has been successful in improving income and nutrition for families by producing and selling milk, but also in providing manure that enhances crop production. In addition, limiting the number of cows per family has reduced overgrazing in the region.

The issue of soil nutrient replacement is being tackled by the government, which has paired with the private sector to subsidize and distribute fertilizer to farmers. It remains to be seen, however, how this increase in the use of fertilizer will impact pollution. The government also promotes techniques such as terracing, which makes more efficient use of the hilly landscape, agroforestry, zero-grazing zones and better irrigation systems to expand the arable land and improve sustainability.


Financing Sustainable Agriculture in Rwanda

Sustainable initiatives cost money, which is a barrier in itself in Rwanda. As a result, outside organizations have stepped in to help finance sustainable agriculture in Rwanda.

The Environmental Resources Management Foundation provided a grant through the Africa Development Promise to support a women’s cooperative in the Bugesera district. The women were subsistence farmers and were suffering from very low crop yields. The grant paid for the installation of a greenhouse with a year-round irrigation system.

Furthermore, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations provides assistance in Rwanda centered on four areas: improving food security and nutrition, sustainably managing resources to increase productivity, private sector investment and collaboration/knowledge sharing.

Finally, the Urwego Opportunity Bank is a Rwandan bank that issues both individual and cooperative loans to farmers. It evaluates the needs of the farmers so it does not issue loans above the amount needed, and it requires proof of the contract with buyers to purchase the harvest. Then it issues loans tailored to farmers’ needs. These loans have financed maize, rice and potato cultivation, cow and milk machine acquisition and transportation to local markets.

As Rwanda’s economy continues to grow, the key may be agriculture, and the key to leveraging agriculture is sustainability. Continued efforts toward improving sustainable agriculture in Rwanda are sure to lead to further economic development in the African nation.

– Olivia Bradley

Photo: Flickr